Friday, September 17, 2010

Who should back whom?

It’s hard to say who was meeting with who in the session that took place Wednesday night between White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr., D-Ill.

The federal government officials from Chicago got together to talk about next spring’s mayoral campaign. Perhaps it was Emanuel trying to find out if he can count on Jackson family support should he decide to try to run for mayor.

THEN AGAIN, JACKSON has been a long-time dreamer of someday holding the political post that entitles him to that fifth floor office at City Hall. Perhaps he wants to know if Emanuel would, at the very least, not stand in his way.

There’s also the factor of Jackson’s wife, Sandi, who is an elected official in her own right – an alderman. There has been some talk that she runs for mayor, while her husband remains in Washington to portray himself as a powerful politician whose influence could benefit the city.

The problem with trying to figure out this scenario is that all of the above theories are feasible. That is to say, there is a certain level of nonsense to all of them. But none of them are completely ludicrous.

Because if Emanuel is to truly have a chance of becoming mayor (instead of becoming one of about two dozen dreamers who ramble around and don’t accomplish anything), he has to start building up some local political ties.

HE MAY HAVE been a congressman from the Northwest Side for a couple of terms. But Emanuel – a Skokie native – isn’t the traditional political type who worked his way up through a ward organization and has ties to the neighborhood.

His campaigns for U.S. representative always included time and money spent overcoming the image that he was just some outsider trying to steal away a local political post from a more deserving local person.

While he managed to overcome that perception then, it is questionable whether he can do it on a citywide basis – particularly when he starts getting into the South Side wards where the neighborhood ties issue is treated as all-important.

Getting himself aligned with the Jacksons could be a way of making a dent into the African-American vote – although it will also ensure that people who can’t stand the Jacksons will view him as Public Enemy Number One.

ONE POSITIVE ASPECT, in my mind, is that various newspaper reports indicate that Emanuel has commissioned polls to try to figure out how much he is appreciated in Chicago. It may be just another political geek resorting to polls to be told what he wants to hear (that we really, really love him and want him back), but at least he’s not buying the District of Columbia hype.

If one paid too much attention to the Washington Post, they’d think that Emanuel is the people’s choice and that Election Day is a formality.

But was this really a meeting about Emanuel? Or was it Jackson who is trying to redeem himself from the fact that his name got brought up so prominently during the criminal proceedings against former Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

The political perception about Jackson is that while he may not face any criminal charges, his ties to Blagojevich have left a stain that makes him un-electable for any post other than his current seat in Congress representing the far South Side and surrounding suburbs.

UNLESS SOMETHING MORE severe breaks, that perception will pass with time. Jackson is only 45. So he is young enough that he could still be a viable candidate for mayor in a future election. Perhaps he could be the person who succeeds whoever wins the municipal elections next spring.

Then again, many political types are basically impatient and believe in seizing the moment – particularly a moment like this where the campaign is a free-for-all and it might only take about 26 percent of the vote in an initial election to qualify for a run-off.

Is Jackson looking to reinforce his own chances by having a get-together with Emanuel? Or could it be about trying to clear the way for his wife so that perhaps the seventh ward alderman would have a chance to emerge from the pack of rabid dogs/mayoral dreamers, all of whom now view the mayor’s post as a nice juicy bone to gnaw at.

Of course, it could also turn out that neither of these men will factor in the final result. Perhaps the real work is taking place in the neighborhoods where candidates are trying to drum up enough interest to get people to actually care about their own futures.

MAYOR DART? MAYOR Meeks? Mayor del Valle? Who’s to say at this point which potential candidates deserve to be taken seriously?

But you have to admit – this mayoral speculation is more interesting than the Ililnois gubernatorial campaign (with Republican hopeful William Brady going out of his way to avoid saying about immigration reform the things that his hard-core partisans want to hear, and Green Party hopeful Rich Whitney showing us why he and his partisan allies are losers with his whining about a lack of campaign funds) that ought to be the focus of our attention these days.


No comments: